August 26, 1907


Tries to Prove by Scriptural Proofs That the Hell of the Bible is Not a Place of Torment But Merely the State of Death the Tomb.

Pastor C T Russell, of Allegheny, Pa., editor of "Zion's Watch Tower," delivered an address at the Majestic theatre Sunday afternoon on the subject, "To Hell and Back." A number of people from out of town were in attendance. Mr. Russell said in part:

"I hold that it is the best of God's people, the tenderest of heart, the most Christianlike, who have had trouble with the question of eternal torment. I know how to sympathize with them because once I had similar distress of mind, and, like others, was obliged to say, 'If I believe this doctrine and meditate upon it, it will surely make me crazy, as it has done hundreds and thousands of others.' Such loving hearts have found a palliation but not a relief, not a satisfaction, in the thought that somehow, perhaps, somewhere, at some time, God's character would be cleared of the dreadful stain cast upon it by this doctrine, which we believed to be the teaching of God's book, the Bible."

"I, too, once so believed and feared, and was ashamed of my God because of the injustice, lovelessness, devilishness implied in the theory taught me from infancy, that God, knowing the end from the beginning, had created our race under conditions as we see them; that He provided a great place called hell for their torture, and created a corps of fireproof devils to attend to the matter, and provided also fuel enough to perpetuate the torture to all eternity. I felt thankful indeed to realize myself an object of divine mercy and favor, but my heart went out for the thousands of millions of human beings of civilized as well as heathen lands who had gone down into death utterly ignorant of 'the only name given under heaven and among men whereby we must be saved' - 'neither is there salvation in any other.'"

"That I thoroughly believed this doctrine you may know when I tell you that at 17 years of age it was my custom to go out at night to chalk up words of warning in conspicuous places, that peradventure I might save some from the awful doom. And the while I wondered why God, who is the infinite power, did not blazon forth some words of warning upon the sky or cause angel trumpeters to announce positively and forcefully the doom to which the world in general was, I supposed, hastening. I was an admirer of the great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, and esteemed him very highly for the honesty and candor which made his sermons so dreadfully hot, believing as I did that he was an exceptionally honest minister, and that others who believed similarly were grossly derelict of duty in not preaching hell more strenuously. But I am here this afternoon, dear friends, to explain to you how in great mercy God opened the eyes of my understanding to see that the doctrine of eternal torment is not the teaching of the Bible, but on the contrary is a misrepresentation and blasphemy of the great and holy name. I am here to prove to you that the doctrine of eternal torment has come down to us from the Dark Ages in the hymns, and catechisms and creeds, and that it is not only contrary to reason, but also contrary to the word of God.

"Demon gods vicious, spiteful, merciless are known to all the heathen peoples. The Bible alone of all religious books teaches a God of love, sympathy and compassion, sympathetic with His creatures and desirous of rescuing them from their fallen estate. It was during the 'Dark Ages,' when the spirit of Christ, the spirit of love, became so nearly extinct even among Christians, that they thought it perfectly proper and pleasing to God that they should tear one another limb from limb on the rack, that they should burn one another at the stake, that they should torture one another with thumbscrews and fill each other's mouths and ears with molten lead it was at that time and by those of our deluded ancestors that this doctrine of eternal torment was torn from heathendom and engrafted upon the teachings of Jesus and His apostles."

"You are all aware that the Old Testament portion of the Bible was written in the Hebrew language and the New Testament in the Greek. We will commence with the Old Testament. We find that the word "hell" everywhere throughout the Old Testament is a translation of the Hebrew word "sheol," which occurs altogether sixty-six times, and is translated three different ways in our common version: thirty-two times grave, thirty-one times hell and three times pit. It should have been translated grave or tomb in every instance. Indeed, in two instances, where it is rendered hell in the common version, the marginal reading says, 'Hebrew, the grave.'"

"We now call your attention to the fact that the word sheol in the Old Testament, which we have shown means merely tomb, the death state, is the exact equivalent of the word hades in the New Testament Greek, which likewise means tomb, the state of death. For instance, in Psalm 16:10 we read, "Thou will not leave my soul in sheol" (hell, the tomb), and we find St. Peter quoting this on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:27-31), "Thou will not leave my soul in hades," hell, the grave. St. Peter proceeds to explain that David spoke this not respecting his own soul, but the soul of Jesus, and thus foretold our Lord's resurrection from the dead on the third day. How simple, how plain the entire matter is from this the scriptural standpoint."

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